About the event
Our precious oceans are under threat from pollution, warming and acidification, over fishing and biodiversity loss. Not to mention the threats they themselves pose from rising sea levels. Global effort and careful stewardship are required to help to Save Our Seas. It’s time to heed our oceans’ SOS and to secure their future health and the survival of all that rely on them.
Oceans on the Brink
Climate affects the oceans and oceans affect the climate. For decades, our oceans have been absorbing carbon dioxide and capturing the extra heat that elevated atmospheric CO2 levels produce. But even the oceans have limits, and our actions are changing ocean circulation and chemistry and affecting the diversity and abundance of marine species.
The video above shows how global surface temperature have changed from 1880-2019. Even with their vast capacity to absorb heat and carbon dioxide, Earth’s oceans were 0.17 degrees Celsius warmer in 2017 than in 2000, and the trend is accelerating. More than 90% of Earth’s warming since 1950 has occurred in the oceans.
At least eight million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year, making up 80% of all marine debris.
This ocean plastic pollution kills millions of marine animals every year. It can physically strangle some species, look like food to others, and microplastics (plastic fragment less than 5mm long) end up in animals’ (including our) systems. Nearly 700 species, including endangered ones, are known to be harmed by plastics in their environments.
How Long Until it’s Gone
This graphic shows how long it will take different objects to break down in our oceans.
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S.
Helping to Save our Seas
Image: The surface of microplastics colonised by bacteria, University of Stirling
The ‘Plastic Vectors Project’ is a study led by the University of Stirling, which explores the potential for pathogens to ‘hitchhike’ on plastic pollution. Microplastics can enter our water systems and their hard surfaces provide an ideal home for microbes to form a sticky biofilm.
The project investigates whether biofilms on microplastics allow pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria and viruses to survive for longer and travel further in the ocean. Living longer in the environment could increase the chances of humans coming into contact with these pathogens in coastal environments.
The aim of the ‘Plastic Vectors Project’ is to develop environmental guidelines that better understand the risks of microplastic pollution. The study will also assess whether colonisation by microbes changes the ways in which microplastics float and are moved by water currents.
Blue Action Project
Image: Scottish Association for Marine Science
The European ‘Blue-Action Project’ sees scientists from the Scottish Association for Marine Science work with partners from 16 other countries to better understand our shared oceans and the effect they have on the climate.
Scientists observe the oceans from satellites and from ships that travel around the globe. They also uses lines of permanent monitoring instruments moored across parts of the North Atlantic to constantly take measurements. Recently, scientists have used robotic ocean gliders (underwater vehicles used for measuring) to dive in places like the Arctic, where it is hard for ships to go.
They use these observations to run complex computer models that can simulate the climate in the northern hemisphere and can make predictions to help us adapt to the changes ahead. Images: Scottish Association for Marine Science. The Blue-Action project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon2020 programme under grant agreement no. 727852
Learn more about our oceans using the link below.